From April 2015 parents will be able to share 50 out of 52 weeks’ statutory leave and 37 out of 39 weeks’ statutory pay. The new form of leave, which was to be called ‘flexible parental leave’, will be known as ‘shared parental leave’ (SPL), and the following details have now been confirmed:There will be a compulsory two-week period of maternity leave following the birth of the baby (four weeks for factory workers).The two weeks of ordinary paternity leave and pay will remain, but the notice required to take leave and pay will be aligned at the 15th week before the EWC.Mothers will need to opt into the SPL system by giving notice to do so eight weeks before taking any SPL. Normally a notice to end maternity leave and opt into SPL will be binding, but mothers who give notice before the child’s birth will be given six weeks after the birth to revoke the notice.Employees must give eight weeks’ notice to request a period of SPL, to include an initial two-week period for the employer and employee to discuss the leave pattern.Employees will be required to provide a non-binding indication of their expected pattern of leave when they first notify their intention to take SPL.Employers will then have to accept up to three notifications of an intention to take leave, which can beeither new notifications or notifications to change dates already set. This means that it will not be possible to insist on employees taking SPL in one block, but if the parties do not reach agreement on the leave pattern for the first notification, employers will be able to insist on the leave requested in that notice being taken as one block. However, assuming the first request related only to part of the employee’s entitlement, the employee will then have two further occasions on which to give notice of taking the remainder of their entitlement.Parents will be able to take SPL separately or together, but SPL must be taken by the end of 52 weeks after the birth.Employees will need to provide the same information as currently required for additional paternity leave (names and national insurance numbers of both parents, and details of the maternity leave and pay already taken).Each parent will be able to use 20 ‘keeping in touch’ days during SPL (to be given a different name to avoid confusion with the current KIT days). These will be in addition to the mother’s 10 KIT day entitlement during maternity leave.An employee will have the right to return to the same job no matter how many periods of SPL or other leave they have taken and whether or not they were continuous,as long as they have taken 26 or fewer weeks’ leave in total. If they exceed 26 return to the same or a similar job.
In addition, after 1 October 2014 the father mother’s partner will be entitled to attend two ante-natal appointments of up to 6.5 hours each, unpaid.
Parallel rules will apply to adoptions where the date of matching is 5 April 2015 or later and these new rules will also:Remove the 26 weeks qualifying period of service for leave,Give the primary adopter paid leave to attend up to five adoption meetings,Increase statutory adoption pay to 6 weeks at the earnings-related rate and 33 weeks at the standard rate. Jenny Willott, Minister for Employment Relations, said she completely understood that new shared parental leave rules were complicated” and pledged that the government would publish “easy to understand” guidance for employers and employees.